Three young couples, three different money styles. What is the best way to manage finances as a couple? After speaking to a money coach, we realised how we think about money now may have started since our childhood and what we can do about it
Can you imagine incurring a 6-figure debt not once, but twice before turning 40?
For independent financial advisor David Wu, one of the most valuable lessons he’s learnt from his entrepreneurial journey is how to manage finances as a couple.
The founder of Minimalist in the City and father of two has since achieved financial independence, but the journey was far from smooth sailing. Having learnt some hard lessons early on has taught him to establish his values and relationship with money honestly with his partner even before marriage.
“This will make it easier when we start to manage more things other than money after marriage. When marriage comes into the picture, you'll have to plan for your home, kids, parents and retirement. Things get more complicated and might hurt our relationship over the long run if expectations are not managed well in the first place.
“Some of my friends have gotten divorced due to money tussles, which is pretty sad. That is why I want to make sure that this does not happen to me and my wife.”
Hear more from David at the CPF Ready For Life Digital Festival (12-13 November), where he will be a panel speaker.
Changing from “Me” to “We”
For creative designer Calista Goh, the biggest money question she had was how she and her husband were going to manage their daily expenses after marriage. The newly wedded couple had been dating for 11 years before tying the knot.
“We are so used to not having to answer to anyone apart from ourselves on how we spend our own money, and we don’t have to justify our own spending as it’s our own hard-earned money. But after marriage, I can see how this solo (yolo) mindset needs to change to a partnership.”
Prior to getting married, the couple had plenty of conversations about how they manage their finances. This includes their wedding planning, where they discussed which expenses were worth spending on or not.
“We have seen each other through all the good and bad, and he also has way more patience than me, so that helps. And he always reassures me that if the problem can be solved with money, then it is not a problem."
Get into the details
For SingSaver's finance writer Yen Joon, he feels couples should discuss budgeting even before marriage and not make any assumptions about the other party.
“We don't break down our spending - we both have our own savings target every month, and beyond that, we spend on food, household, entertainment, and investment.”
“That said, I think couples should talk about their monthly budget, for instance, monthly commitments and how you pay them. Also, if you have any debts, you'll want to be upfront about it so that both of you can work that out before it causes conflicts. Then again, this applies even after marriage.”
A welcomed change he realised is that they have improved their financial acumen after marriage. “Now that we're more aware of investing, we've been (slowly) building our investment portfolio and have invested in stocks and ETFs.”
Yen Joon thinks his partner is better at money management than him. “She tends not to spend unless necessary, whereas I am tempted by deals, especially online sales such as 10.10, 11.11, Black Friday, and so on - which run too often, unfortunately!"
David shares 5 tips for a healthy money relationship with your partner
1. Make a life plan together
Kids or no kids? Good to list down some financial objectives (before or after marriage), including:
- Travel aspirations - destination and frequencies
- Your ideal wedding
- Your ideal lifestyle
- Home – what size and which area, budget for renovation
- Kids – childcare needs, enrichment class
- Insurance – what kind of coverage required
- Using an expenses app to record our expenses
- Excel spreadsheet to monitor the progress of our financial goals
2. Play to your strengths
As two worlds come together as one, it’s inevitable that one party is more financially savvy than the other.
From his experience, David reckons that instead of a 50-50 approach towards money management, playing to your strengths could work out better in the long run.
“When we know our strengths, it’s easier to divide the financial responsibilities. For instance, the husband will settle household expenses, food and car, while the wife will settle childcare-related expenses.”
As for investing, he reckons that at least one person should take the lead to ensure the money keeps up with inflation and accumulates wealth.
One thing that David noticed about financially savvy couples is that they tend to invest more and have a clearer projection of how much to have at different phases of their lives.
3. Choose your "hard"
When it comes to sensitive topics such as money management, David reckons it’s better to have the hard conversations earlier on than later.
“When you do that, it becomes easier to manage your expectations on what you want to achieve on the financial front as a couple.
“Many couples quarrel a lot when dealing with money, and you do not want to end up with lots of conflict around this important topic.
“Set aside time to talk about sensitive topics consistently, so it becomes natural to you.”
4. Grow smarter together
You don’t need an MBA or business degree to be more financially savvy. David suggests attending courses or webinars and reading personal finance books to develop basic finance knowledge.
He and his wife also keep each other updated on anything financial-related.
"We always base our planning and budgeting on one’s salary (for instance, when we want to buy a new home.) So, the idea is to spend one salary only and save the other. This is to make sure we do not overcommit on big item purchases and make sure we can still run the whole household should one partner get retrenched or wish to take a break from work. This will also make sure that we save more than 50% of combined salaries which will speed up the way we save and invest.”
5. Keep the conversation open
You may find that you have very different views towards money management from your partner, and the conversation may turn out differently from what you imagined.
Even then, David says a good practice is to always be open and share your concerns and goals with each other.
“It’s akin to our life journey where at different phases of our lives, we need our partner to step up when the other’s health, energy level, or opportunities are waning.
For example, some mothers may take a short career break to care for their babies, or a husband may have gotten retrenched. You never know what could go wrong, so that’s why it’s crucial to work as a team to ensure you reach your life goals.”
Living happily ever after
Whether you’re single or coupled up, life is beautiful when you don’t need to worry about money. Ultimately, when you and your partner share similar values towards money management, that’s a good starting point. But the conversation should continue on a deeper level as you progress along different life stages.
From planning for parenthood, education, travel or retirement, these are all opportunities to understand the person you’ll hopefully be spending the rest of your life with, better.
Read these next:
Handling Finances As A Couple: Here’s How We Do It
Money Confessions: Are Joint Savings Accounts Relationship Wreckers Or Boosters?
How To Talk About Money With Your Partner
Should You and Your S.O. Get A Couple’s Credit Card?
School Didn’t Teach Me: Money Lessons I’ve Learnt After Moving In With My Partner